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Ex-lawyer in terror case asks US judge for release

July 30, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Newly filed court papers seek an early prison release for an ailing, once-prominent civil rights lawyer convicted of terrorism charges for helping a blind Egyptian sheik relay messages from behind bars.

Lynne Stewart, who is 73, will soon succumb to breast cancer, attorney Jill Shellow said in Manhattan court papers filed Monday. She asked her sentencing judge for a hearing to consider modifying her sentence to time served.

“Ms. Stewart is dying,” Shellow wrote. “Her condition is rapidly deteriorating.”

Stewart, who says she doesn’t want to die in “a strange and loveless place” and wants to go home, was convicted in 2005 of providing support to terrorist organizations by letting the imprisoned sheik communicate with his followers. She was sentenced to 10 years.

The sheik is serving a life sentence for conspiracies to blow up New York landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Stewart represented the sheik at his 1995 trial. She’s been imprisoned since 2009. She’s at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Stewart’s cancer was first diagnosed in 2005. It was found again last July, Shellow said.

A compassionate-release request was previously denied in part on the grounds that Stewart had more than 18 months to live. Her lawyer said her life expectancy is now less than 18 months and a compassionate-release application may be filed again.

In a handwritten note submitted with Shellow’s application, Stewart wrote that she was “terribly weak and without much energy.”

“I do know that I do not want to die here in prison — a strange and loveless place. I want to be where all is familiar — in a word, home,” Stewart said. “If you indeed represent the merciful hand of the law, as against, in this case, a heartless bureaucracy, do not punish me further. Grant me release and allow me to die in dignity.”

A federal appeals court last year upheld Stewart’s 10-year sentence, saying she earned it through serious crimes that she refused to acknowledge. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was fair to boost Stewart’s sentence to 10 years in prison from the two-year, four-month sentence she was given in 2006.

The three-judge panel that had ordered her to be resentenced said it disagreed with her claim that her sentence was “shockingly high.” It accused her of exhibiting a “stark inability to understand the seriousness of her crimes.”

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